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A Brief History of Uganda


Independence Onward

On October 9th 1962, Uganda became an independent country with Apollo Milton Obote as the first Prime Minister of Uganda.

The British had developed the necessary infrastructure to enable the new country to have a promising start. Higher education, hospitals, law and order and a new parliamentary system were in place, and agriculture and trade were booming.

Obote had a challenge on his hands, trying to hold a number of tribes and interests together without the power of a foreign protectorate to enforce decisions. His government found it's relations with the opposition KY party to be a huge stumbling block that hindered progress and fed division throughout the country.

Finally, a constitutional crisis in 1966 brought to the world scene, a man who was to become an infamous figure. Major General Idi Amin was in command of Uganda's army, and Obote could not rule without military support. As life at home became more and more desperate for Ugandans, Amin seized his opportunity in January 1971, overthrowing Obote to public jubilation and massive national support.

Initially the nation, and the western world, welcomed Amin, who appointed an experienced cabinet and promised wide ranging political and economic reforms. The nature of his leadership was soon revealed to be less ' savour' and more 'murdering dictator' as Uganda was plunged into years of fear, self destruction and political isolation. In a master stroke that crippled Uganda so badly that it is still recovering, Amin decided to expel all Asians from Uganda. At the time, Asians owned over half the country's wealth and ran most of the industry. With the skilled business community ripped apart, the economy collapsed, unemployment soared and tax revenues plunged.

Today, the country is still scarred with abandoned hotels, factories and elegant houses, a constant reminder of Amin's mis management of the country. Amin staggered on, through the Israeli special forces raid on Entebbe airport and into an ill calculated invasion of Tanzania. The Tanzanian retaliation was supported by many exiled Ugandan troops, including the Front for National Salvation (FRONASA) which was lead by Yoweri Museveni. (now President Museveni).

Amin was overthrown in April 1979, to be followed by Yusuf Lule, Godfrey Binaisa and Paul Muwanga, all of whom came and went by the end of September 1980 when elections were held.Milton Obote won the election with a dubiously attained margin and backing from an army he could not control. Unchecked, the army did whatever it wanted, looting, raping, 'diverting' government funds and making all the key decisions.

Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, a resistance fighter opposed to Obote, was sworn in as President of Uganda on 29th January 1986. He inherited a messy situation, corruption, bitter rivalries, a population used to treating new leaderships with deep distrust, and a ruined economy.

Museveni has remained in power since 1986 and undoubtedly Uganda has developed during that time. His time leading the country has, in some opinions, been marred by allegations of election rigging and corruption, whilst others feel that a certain degree of 'control' is necessary to keep the country together. Recent Ugandan elections were declared as flawed by Uganda's own judicial system, though they stopped short of challenging the outcome in which Museveni was re-elected.

Continued efforts to convict the leader of the opposition on a variety of changes has raised international concern about the motives behind the charges, and the courts have been critical of some government backed prosecutions. On the other hand, Museveni inherited a nation that was on it's knees, and economic progress was bound to be a tough course. The press and the population are free to express their own views, the police and army are not oppressive, and the government openly welcomes travel in and out of the country.

Whilst there is still much to do before Uganda will be able to make the most of its huge potential, the country is striding forward and Museveni himself has acquired a reputation as a progressive leader and one of Africa's foremost statesmen.

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